This interview with Mickey Cassiba is from the March 2013 issue of our GT News
1. How did you first get started at gardening?
I first got into gardening as a child. Growing up around downtown Los Angeles, there wasn’t much to look at besides tenements and industrial complexes. I tried to improve the scenery around our building by ‘liberating’ cuttings and shoots from park plantings. Some thrived, most failed, but I learned along the way.
2. What was it about gardening that initially caught your interest, enticing you to get into it at the level you are now?
I was always fascinated by the resiliency of plants. Even in the unfriendly environment I grew up in, there was always a little shoot breaking through the pavement or a vine clinging to a post or building. After moving north to the Bay area, I fell in with a crowd of urban renewalists (is that a word?) and planted my first rooftop garden. A few edibles, but mostly eye-candy. After my military service I used my GI Bill to take courses in Ornamental Horticulture. Tropicals and the challenges of growing them in temperate climes really grabbed my attention.
3. Tell us a bit of history of your journey from that beginning to where you are today
As I said, growing up in L.A. there wasn’t much to see but cars, smoke, and crumbling buildings. School field trips were the only escape from that bleak landscape. My first trip to Forest Lawn (a cemetery of all places) was an eye opener. Such beauty in the midst of such ugliness really did it for me. I was hooked! Later around the bays (Monterey and San Francisco) I was introduced to Orchids and Bromeliads. Still my passion.
4. What inspires you regarding additions to your gardens?
My additions are purely eclectic. There is no plan. I am sometimes moved by a sick plant’s situation, or a color that my wife likes, or, well, just a whim.
5. What are the greatest challenges that you have met along the way?
The greatest challenge(and setback) was my divorce. I lost my entire collection, 3 greenhouses and 2 acres of garden. I then traveled for many years, without a place to call my own. Always a windowsill plant or two, but no gardening to speak of.
6. What is the greatest reward that you have received from gardening?
The greatest reward is that of peace. When I’m on my knees with my hands in the soil, there’s no room for deadlines world turmoil, or even mortgage payments.
7. What is your favourite tool that you use for gardening?
First, my mind. The most important tool the Human animal possesses. Then my hands. Steel or even wooden tools have no feel for the earth. Beyond that it would be my tiny Wal-Mart trowel.
8. What is your favourite creation in/for your gardens?
My irrigation system. Here in southeast Texas, water is a premium. I use greywater to water my fruit trees and parts of the garden. It gets us by in the ‘no watering times’.
9. What tips would you give to someone just starting out or currently struggling with gardening?
Stay with it, listen to the soil and the plants If you’re quiet, you can hear them. Beyond that, do not rush. Plants are very slow beings, but beings nonetheless. They have their wants and needs, and if met they will reward you. Not only with the tangible results of sight and food, but with an inner peace that comes with the knowledge that you are indeed a part of the process that we know as life.
10. How did you find GardenTenders and what is it that keeps you coming back?
I found GT through Lumber Jocks. Wood work is another passion of mine, and at times they overlap.
Thanks to Mickey for taking the time to share his story.
-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)